IRVING, Texas – Three days later, after seeing the same video and hearing the same audio NASCAR did, Denny Hamlin still believes the CampingWorld.com 500 at Talladega Superspeedway didn’t end the way it should have.
And it’s still Kevin Harvick‘s fault.
“Kevin Harvick’s a pretty good driver, he’s just run 180 laps at 200 mph three wide, but he can’t see a car going 30 mph running beside him?” Hamlin asked at a media event hosted by Texas Motor Speedway at the Cool River Cafe. “Common sense every now and then has to take over.”
Yet NASCAR doesn’t agree with Hamlin. After vice chairman Mike Helton said Sunday there was always the possibility of something “coming out of the woodwork,” NASCAR issued a statement Tuesday saying no action would be taken against Harvick.
In a Tuesday interview on NASCAR America, chairman Brian France said he understood why a driver would make the claim that Harvick deliberately caused a caution “but it’s just not accurate, or at least it’s not accurate that we can see.”
The NASCAR response surprised Hamlin given the precedent set in 2013 when Michael Waltrip Racing received among the stiffest penalties in history for manipulating the regular-season finale at Richmond.
“I think it’s the safe play for them,” Hamlin said. “I think they’ve been very adamant over the years about letting these things play out naturally, and our race at Talladega definitely did not play out naturally, for whatever reasons.”
Hamlin was eliminated from the Chase for the Sprint Cup after finishing four laps down in 37th, mostly because of a faulty roof hatch that necessitated multiple green-flag stops. He also was involved in the 11-car wreck that began when Harvick, driving a car with a wounded engine, stayed in line coming to the final restart attempt when he made contact with the left side of Trevor Bayne‘s No. 6.
Harvick finished 15th and advanced to the third round.
“It’s very easy to say that we can’t be inside someone’s head and know exactly what they’re thinking,” Hamlin said. “If you have a crew chief telling him exactly what need’s to happen, I think most spotters up there knew what was going on, and they warned all their drivers, ‘He’s going to cause the big one here, watch out,’ and it happens? It’s disappointing.”
Hamlin had shared his own 137-character statement on race’s conclusion not long after the race ended.
The Joe Gibbs Racing driver said there were no repercussions for it from NASCAR.
“No, I’m just speaking my mind, trying to do the best I can to give people the real emotion when it comes out,” Hamlin said. “Sometimes it’s good, sometime’s it’s bad. At that point I was not really thinking about anybody’s feelings but our own.”
When the notion of retaliation was raised, Hamlin said every driver has a “scorecard” in their head, but that doesn’t mean the No. 4 intentionally will be wrecked by someone anytime soon.
He said he hasn’t forgotten what happened between him and Harvick last year in the Bristol night race on Lap 161 of 500.
“Kevin wrecked me pretty good last year at Bristol for the lead. Pretty blatantly,” Hamlin said. “And I never did anything. I’ve been very nice to the people that I feel like I’ve done wrong. Keep a scorecard in your head and don’t give that person that inch when they need that inch.”
Hamlin doesn’t know whether it matters if Harvick, who is looking to defend his 2014 title, has many friends in the field during the final four races of the Chase. Hamlin said it’s a tough for a driver to balance wanting to make friends on the track and not caring about who your enemies are.
“You don’t want to have any enemies, I guess you would say, at the end of the year because people have scores to settle,” Hamlin said. “You’re always thinking about it when they’re racing around you, and it moves your focus at times. I’m sure there’s guys in the Chase that probably don’t feel well when someone’s right behind them that they’ve done bad in the past.
“They made those choices and you got to live with them.”